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The Rescuers Down Under movie poster

The Rescuers Down Under is a 1990 American animated adventure film directed by Hendel Butoy & Mike Gabriel. It is a sequel to the 1977 film "The Rescuers."

It was released on November 16, 1990.

A Mickey Mouse featurette "The Prince and the Pauper" was added as an attraction to the film.

PlotEdit

In the Australian Outback, a young boy named Cody befriends a golden eagle named Marahute after freeing her from a trap. However, a poacher named Percival C. McLeach (who had killed Marahute's mate) abducts Cody to interrogate him to find Marahute's whereabouts.

A telegram is sent to the Rescue Aid Society in New York, and Bernard and Miss Bianca, the RAS' elite field agents, are distributed to rescue Cody. They go to find Orville, an albatross who had helped them previously, but they meet his brother, Wilbur instead. The three arrive in Australia, where they meet Jake, the RAS' local regional operative.

Jake guides the three as they search for Cody, and flirts with Bianca, to Bernard's chagrin. Jake consigns Wilbur to a hospital when his spinal column is bent out of shape. Wilbur refuses to undergo surgery and attempts to escape, but his back is unintentionally straightened by the staff, allowing him to leave in search of the others.

At McLeach's ranch, Cody attempts to free the captured animals, but he is stopped by Joanna, McLeach's pet goanna. McLeach tells Cody that Marahute has been killed and frees him, deceiving Cody into leading him to Marahute's nest. 

Bernard, Bianca, and Jake follow McLeach to Marahute's nest. However, all but Bernard are captured by Mcleach. Joanna is instructed to eat Marahute's eggs, but Bernard saves them, prompting Joanna to leave.

Wilbur arrives and Bernard instructs him to sit on the eggs while he leaves to go after McLeach, who has taken his captives to Crocodile Falls. He attempts to feed Cody to the crocodiles, but Bernard disables McLeach's vehicle. McLeach attempts to shoot the rope holding Cody, but Bernard tricks Joanna into crashing into him, knocking both of them into the river.

While Joanna reaches safety, McLeach plummets off the waterfall to his death. Jake and Bianca free Marahute, who rescues Cody and Bernard. Bernard proposes to Bianca, who accepts. As Jake salutes them, they all depart to Cody's home.

Meanwhile, Marahute's eggs hatch, much to Wilbur's dismay.

Voice CastEdit

  • Bob Newhart as Bernard
  • Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca
  • John Candy as Wilbur
  • Adam Ryen as Cody
  • George C. Scott as Percival C. McLeach
  • Frank Welker as Marahuté
  • Tristan Rogers as Jake
  • Peter Firth as Red
  • Wayne Robson as Frank
  • Douglas Seale as Krebbs
  • Carla Meyer as Faloo
  • Bernard Fox as Chairmouse\Dr. Mouse
  • Russi Taylor as Nurse Mouse

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

The writing for "The Rescuers Down Under" began in 1986.

Following work on "Oliver & Company", Peter Schneider (vice president of Walt Disney Feature Animation) asked supervising animator Mike Gabriel if he would consider directing.

At the time, Gabriel declined the offer, stating: "Well, after watching George [Scribner], it doesn't look like it would be much fun." After a few months, Schneider offered Gabriel to direct Rescuers Down Under, which he accepted.

Following his assignment as supervising animator as Tito in "Oliver & Company", which was met with favorable praise from general audiences, Hendel Butoy was added to co-direct the film with Gabriel.

Meanwhile, Schneider recruited Thomas Schumacher, who had worked at the Mark Taper Forum, to serve as producer on the project.

With Schumacher as producer, he selected storyboard artist Joe Ranft to serve as story supervisor because of his "ability to change and transform through excellence of idea". Throughout the storyboard process, Ranft constantly bolstered the creative morale of his crew, but rarely drew storyboard sequences himself.

In addition to this, Ranft entered creative disagreements with the studio management and marketing executives including one disagreement where he optioned for the casting of an Aboriginal Australian child actor to voice Cody, which was overridden with the decision to cast "a little white blonde kid."

Noting the rise in popularity of the action-adventure genre set in an Australian setting and with Americans becoming more environmentally conscious, the filmmakers decided to abandon the musical format where they found the placement of the songs slowed down the pacing of the film.

They decided to market the film as the studio's first action-adventure film where Butoy and Gabriel found visual inspiration from live-action films by Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock & David Lean and their first film since "Bambi" to have an animal rights and environmental message.

In December of 1988, original cast members Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor were confirmed to be reprising their roles. However, Jim Jordan (who had voiced Orville in the original film) died in 1988 following a fall at his home (but even if he had not suffered that fatal injury, he was over 90 years old and was unlikely to come out of retirement).

Roy E. Disney suggested the character of Wilbur (written as Orville's brother) to serve as his replacement. Intentionally, the names were in reference to the Wright brothers.

Animation and DesignEdit

The members of the production team including art director Maurice Hunt and six of his animators spent several days in Australia to study settings and animals found in the Australian Outback to observe, take photographs and draw sketches to properly illustrate the outback on film.

While there, they ventured through the Ayers Rock, Katherine Gorge and the Kakadu National Park where Hunt's initial designs emphasized the spectrum of scale between the sweeping vistas and the film's protagonists.

Serving as the supervising animator on the eagle character Marahute, Glen Keane studied six eagles residing at the Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho, as well as a stuffed American eagle loaned from the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History and an eagle skeleton.

While animating the eagle, Keane and his animation crew enlarged the bird, shrunk its head, elongated its neck and wings, and puffed out its chest. Additionally, Keane had to slow the bird's wing movements to about 25–30 percent of an eagle's flight speed. Because of the excessive details on Marahuté (who carried 200 feathers), the character only appeared in seven minutes during the opening and ending sequences.

In order to have the film finished on time, Schumacher enlisted the support of the Disney-MGM Studios, which was originally envisioned to produce independent cartoon shorts and featurettes.

On its first assignment on a Disney animated feature film, 70 artists contributed ten minutes of screentime, including supervising animator Mark Henn. Serving as one of ten supervising animators, Henn animated several scenes of Bernard, Miss Bianca, and Percival C. McLeach.

For the mice characters, Henn studied the mannerisms made by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor during voice recording sessions, and looked to George C. Scott's performance in Dr. Strangelove for inspiration while animating McLeach.

In order to create believable realism for the Australian animals, additional animators traveled to the San Diego Zoo to observe kangaroos, kookaburras & snakes while an iguana was brought in by the staff at Walt Disney World's Discovery Island for the animators drawing Joanna.

"The Rescuers Down Under" is notable for Disney as its first traditionally animated film to completely use the new computerized CAPS process.

CAPS (short for Computer Animation Production System) was a computer-based production system used for digital ink and paint and compositing which allowed for more efficient and sophisticated post-production of the Disney animated films & making the traditional practice of hand-painting cels obsolete.

The animators' drawings and the background paintings were scanned into computer systems instead, where the animation drawings are inked and painted by digital artists and then later combined with the scanned backgrounds in software that allows for camera positioning, camera movements, multiplane effects & other techniques.

The film also uses CGI elements throughout such as the field of flowers in the opening sequence, McLeach's truck and perspective shots of Wilbur flying above Sydney Opera House and New York City.

The CAPS project was the first of Disney's collaborations with computer graphics company Pixar (which would eventually become a feature animation production studio making computer-generated animated films for Disney before being bought outright in 2006).

As a result, "The Rescuers Down Under" was the first animated film for which the entire final film elements were assembled and completed within a digital environment, as well as the first fully digital feature film. However, the film's marketing approach did not call attention to the use of the CAPS process.

Box OfficeEdit

"The Rescuers Down Under" grossed $3,499,819 during its opening weekend, ranking at #4 at the box office (behind films "Home Alone", "Rocky V" and "Child's Play 2").

Domestically, the film grossed $27,931,461, making it the least successful box-office performance of Disney's renaissance era.

When it failed to reach the studio's expectations, then-Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to pull all of "The Rescuers" TV advertising.

Critical ReceptionEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, "The Rescuers Down Under" has an overall approval rating of 68% based on 25 reviews with an average score of 6.2. out of 10.

The critical consensus states: "Though its story is second-rate, The Rescuers Down Under redeems itself with some remarkable production values – particularly its flight scenes."

The staff of Halliwell's Film Guide gave it two stars out of four, saying "[This] slick, lively and enjoyable animated feature is an improvement on the original."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote:

"Animation can give us the glory of sights and experiences that are impossible in the real world, and one of those sights, in 'The Rescuers Down Under,' is of a little boy clinging to the back of a soaring eagle. The flight sequence and many of the other action scenes in this new Disney animated feature create an exhilaration and freedom that are liberating. And the rest of the story is fun, too."

Likewise giving it three stars out of four, Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune summarized the film as a "bold, rousing but sometimes needlessly intense Disney animated feature where good fun is provided by a goofy albatross (voiced by John Candy), one in a long line of silly Disney birds."

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the animation and the action sequences, but was critical of the storyline labeling it "trifle dark and un involving for very small children", though acknowledged its "slightly more grown-up, adventurous approach may be the reason it does not include the expected musical interludes, but they would have been welcome."

Also finding error with "such a mediocre story that adults may duck," the staff of Variety, wrote that the movie "boasts reasonably solid production values and fine character voices."

Josh Spiegel echoes that point and expands on it further, explaining:

"The Rescuers Down Under tanked with barely $3.5 million in its opening-weekend take, Katzenberg removed all television advertisements for the film. By itself, that's not the worst possible fate, but it proves that he had zero confidence in its ability to perform at a seemingly ideal time of year. Here's the thing: the more demoralizing fact isn't that Katzenberg yanked the marketing. It's that Disney set The Rescuers Down Under up to fail, opening it on the same weekend as a little film called Home Alone, otherwise known as the highest-grossing film of 1990. He may not have been able to predict its long-lasting impact on popular culture, but Katzenberg likely had enough tracking information to tip him off that Home Alone would be a monster laying waste to everything in its path. The Rescuers Down Under was forced to take the hit, then and afterwards."

Ellen MacKay of Common Sense Media gave the movie four out of five stars, writing, "A rare sequel that improves on the original."